It was a full year ago that I read Hilary Bradt’s Connemara Mollie, tales of her travels in Ireland nearly 30 years ago, alone, with a pony. It ended shockingly. There was promise of more, and Dingle Peggy has just arrived.
After a break of six weeks, young Hilary is back in Dingle, to resume her journey, a new pony to find. She is joined by Peggy, a bay Connemara mare, and, for the first part of her trip, by Susanne, a young friend from Germany. And they set off round Dingle, and beyond.
Immediately I’m back, stooping under the lintel and into the gloom of Gallarus Oratory; and I’m back on that beach, the one where horses gallop along with Ryan’s Daughter and where the surf pounds in, for miles. And there’s a horse-drawn caravan and a meander in the rain.
The hillsides were covered in blooms of orange montbretia lilies, and red & purple pendulums of fuchsia; in the verges foxgloves and purple loosestrife caught Hilary’s attention too. There are jars of stout in the back of the ironmongers where you can get your tins of beans and milk. And triple-distilled whiskey, warm and velvet-smooth, peat free. And clouds halfway down the hillsides, midges plentiful; like being at home, in so many ways; like being abroad in many others.
I wrote about it once, an article you’ll find, Dingle Peninsula – by horse-drawn caravan. And Hilary Bradt read that article a few years ago, for it was entered in one of her competitions, and commended. And I’m wondering now if it might have sparked memories of a long-forgotten trip and sent her scurrying for her notes. She didn’t say.
But in Connemara Mollie, and in Dingle Peggy, we have some lovely writing of an exceptional area. Despite the ending to the first volume, we have some light relief, an easy read and a journey back to times gone by, but times we remember well. She tells a good tale well, and I’m hoping that in semi-retirement Ms Bradt has some more notebooks in her closet from her years of travel. And I’m hoping the Bradt catalogue continues to delve into travel writing, bringing old works back to the fore, and new authors to the bedside table.
A girl, a pony, and all the countryside and characters that the counties of Cork and Kerry can muster. What’s not to enjoy?